Westport Officials Work To Cleanup Toxins Found In Middle School

By Jordan Weinstein

Jul. 21, 2011

BOSTON — Officials in Westport, Mass., are working to deal with unsafe levels of toxins discovered in a middle school there this week.

The polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were discovered in the caulking old windows that were being examined for replacement. Officials widened their testing and found the carcinogen in the air and in the ceiling-tile cement of Westport Middle School.

Westport Community Schools superintendent Dr. Carlos Callie says he's not sure the cleanup will be completed before school begins in five weeks.

"While we’re still trying to test out what ways we could reduce the levels and make it so that the levels are below the EPA thresholds, we’re also trying to figure out if this is all going to get done before school starts," Callie said.

School officials estimate the clean-up could cost as much as $1 million. That money, Callie says, could be hard to find.

"Right now, we’re spending right out of our budget money that we probably don’t have. The issue is to secure enough funding whether through town sources or with the help of the state to at least get us to open the school if we can in September and keep the school open for the year while we look for more long-term solutions," Callie said.

If the school can’t be made safe for the start of the school year, Callie says the 550 students in grades five through eight could be sent to unused schools in Dartmouth, Fall River or Fairhaven. Long-term, officials are considering building a new school if funding can be found.

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